By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
Richard James Hively, better known as R.J., twice signed Division I baseball scholarships with hope and high expectations.
If you asked Hively, he’d probably say that only now, as a fifth-year senior, has his production been what he thought it would be coming out of high school in Huntington Beach, Calif.
He signed with Cal-State Fullerton, the neighborhood team, was redshirted and became the odd man out on a talented roster.
He attended junior college, then signed with Ole Miss last year. There are always expectations for the juco transfers who previously signed with elite programs. Hively, though, struggled through arm soreness and inefficiency in 2011.
That hasn’t been the case in this, his final season of college baseball. He’s gone from inconsequential to a guy the Rebels have to have to complete their pitching staff.
That has been evident in the way Hively thrived in his move from Saturday starter to bullpen jack-of-all trades. Since the late-April role change Hively has started games and saved games.
A little more quality pitching might have made a difference for the Rebels in their 11-2 SEC tournament elimination loss to LSU Thursday. It was a 4-2 game after seven innings.
Hively’s record is only 5-5, but his earned run average is 2.88 over 75 innings. That’s pretty strong.
He’s had some arm soreness of late, something Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco attributes, to some degree, to Hively’s work load down the stretch.
The fact that Bianco didn’t use him against LSU underscores Bianco’s belief that the Rebels are in the NCAA tournament.
Hively has saved enough games this season that Bianco saved him for the next round, hoping to ensure that Hively is rested and ready for a regional.
As poor as run-scoring has been for the Rebels of late, their pitching sets up pretty nicely in a four-team regional.
The team that wins the first two games has a significant advantage, and the first two Ole Miss starters – Bobby Wahl and Mike Mayers – will give the Rebels a chance.
Bianco: “With those first two guys, the way run out there, the way they’ve pitched all year … they’ve been terrific. I think our guys are tested and ready. I like our pitching in a four-team tournament, especially with the first two guys. Then it depend on how you use R.J.”
It’s not a bad plan, not a bad plan at all, if the Rebels can just score a few runs along the way.
Parrish Alford (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at Djournal.com.